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Feature February 2014

Frederick Möckler and his Reprints

Frederick Möckler, a Bank Manager at Wotton-Under-Edge was, like his father before him, an ardent collector and when in 1888 his father’s Baxter prints passed to him he began collecting with a vigour and on a scale that outran his purse and eventually impoverished him.

In 1891 he purchased a box of rare Baxter miscellanies and some 10,000 prints, many proofs and interesting documents. In 1894 he published his first catalogue of Baxter prints and helped found the first Baxter Society, becoming the first Secretary and Treasurer as well as the Editor of the journal. He also organised the first Baxter Society Exhibition, held in December 1895 in Birmingham.

Frederick Möckler's reprint of George Baxter's Cape Wilberforce

Today Möckler is best remembered for his portfolio of reprints. At an interview with Courtney Lewis in about 1909 Möckler advised him that on learning in 1893 that Le Blond was still alive, Möckler went to London to see the old printer (who died in 1894 aged 75) with the intention of purchasing the plates and blocks of Baxter which had previously been acquired by Le Blond. At the meeting Le Blond agreed to sell Baxter’s plates but only on the condition his own plates were purchased as well.

Möckler bought all in the hope that he could reprint Baxter subjects in full colours, however Le Blond’s warning that this would not be possible proved correct as many of the blocks were missing or defective. Möckler had to accept a single colour reprint, carried out after the plates had been cleaned of rust and Le Blond’s name erased where it had been added to the Baxter plates.

The portfolios of prints were published in 1894 and on the front cover is stated that the issue was limited to 100 copies. This number was confirmed by Möckler during his talk with Courtney Lewis when he added that, about 1894, he sold the plates and blocks to a Mr. Bramah of Sheffield. Having established the number of portfolios published, the next step should be to ascertain the number and nature of the prints each contained.

In the portfolio’s preface Möckler wrote that from some 200 subjects on his steel plates he had provided illustrations of more than one third of that number. After allowing for a few of the plates being engraved with two or three subjects it suggests between 60 and 65 plates were used. Each plate was printed on an individual sheet. This approximation is made more tenable by the existence of an offer which appeared in a Catalogue dated 1896 of Charles F. Bullock who was a print dealer in Birmingham. The offer reads as follows, “Portfolio of Baxter’s Works. Containing 60 reprints in black (although they are in sepia) on specially thick hand-made paper, 24 ins by 20 ins from the original steel plates. Published by Frederick Möckler Est., 1894. .. .£3.10s.”

There may have been sixty reprints of plates perhaps, but they were not all Baxters. Having had to purchase the Le Blond plates as well as the Baxter plates, Möckler unknowingly selected some plates by Le Blond for inclusion in his portfolio. He also used plates which Baxter had made but not printed from.

All sheets are the same size, 25 ins by 20 ins, not as Bullock advertised and are cream in colour.